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05-05-2010, 04:53 PM   #1
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Traditional print vs scan & print

I caught someone's comment about his tradtional print giving him more detail than his scan through a Nikon 9000. Given the variences n the scannng process, I was wondering if anyone else has had a realzation that a traditinal print of their 645 negative was "better" than a scan & print from the same neg? Or has the reverse been more often the result?

05-06-2010, 05:46 AM   #2
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Traditional vs scan and print

While I have not done a test as such, I have made inkjet prints from scans that are plenty good, and impossible to tell they are not wet prints. Lately I have printed contact prints, 11x14, from digital negatives, that look good. There are so many variables in enlarging, lens, alignments, lack of vibration while exposing a print, and of course good negative registration in the enlarger, I suspect I will follow what is much easier rather than worry too much about fine distinctions.
After all it is what the observer thinks of the print that really matters.
05-06-2010, 06:31 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Herb Quote
While I have not done a test as such, I have made inkjet prints from scans that are plenty good, and impossible to tell they are not wet prints. Lately I have printed contact prints, 11x14, from digital negatives, that look good. There are so many variables in enlarging, lens, alignments, lack of vibration while exposing a print, and of course good negative registration in the enlarger, I suspect I will follow what is much easier rather than worry too much about fine distinctions.
After all it is what the observer thinks of the print that really matters.
I agree with you Herb on the many variables. I suppose the question was more academic than practical. That and trying to rationalize not spending any more money that I don't have on a MF scanner! Thanks
05-06-2010, 06:44 AM   #4
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Wishing I had some links to share, but I've read from an increasing number of fine art photo pros that they prefer to shoot film, scan it, and print with inkjet for the greater detail and improved workflow. To Herb's point, there are so many variables in doing a wet print that unless you do it yourself and you try and fail and try again until you get exactly the result you want, it's probably "better" to just do inkjet.

That said, if you can dedicate the time and resources necessary to getting your prints to look exactly how you want them, and you LIKE that look, then power to you. Keep doing what makes your prints look how you want them to, no matter how "antiquated" the process. Sharpness may matter to you a whole lot less than having a true silver look to your shots.

Kind of stating the obvious here, I guess. In light of all of that I am in the scan-inkjet camp. The photos come out so sharp and they look great.

05-06-2010, 07:05 AM   #5
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I would tend to doubt that with most films and lenses, loss of significant detail is the main concern when printing from a medium format scan made with a high quality scanner. However, many other things are lost and changed. For example, whenever I scan black and white film on the Coolscan 9000, I can either set its software to scan as a black and white negative or positive. As a negative, it will be much more contrasty than the original, and as a positive it will be much less. (Most people seem to go with less).

Loss of the original tonality is a bigger issue to me than detail.
05-06-2010, 09:11 AM   #6
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It is picture dependent but one thing the digital conversion will do is give you finer control over the end results I've found.

And by that I mean getting all that's on the negative to the analog print can be a challenge sometimes. In the case of BW, for instance, negatives with extreme range of light can mean losing shadow detail in one area to bring in the highlights in another. Burning and dodging under the enlarger for simple and limited areas is easy to do. But for fine control and with numerous areas to deal with it becomes difficult and no doubt many attempts. Then there is the problem of reproducing it again at a later date. If you don't remember exactly what you did, you'll have to start over.

Of course you can do all that in the graphics editor really easy, more precisely and reproduce the same print again at a future date. And if you've ever wanted to remove an ugly power line in your otherwise great shot, a graphics editor really does the job.

I have a video of the life of Ansel Adams. In one scene he has the paper on the wall with the enlarger projecting onto it. He'd use his hands dancing all around to the image to control the light to areas of the print. I guess in a situation like that each print would be unique piece of hand crafted art.

I haven't see all the good ink paper out there but I've said before that I sure do miss a cold-tone print on Kodak's Ellite Fine Art paper.
05-06-2010, 10:45 AM   #7
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Color or B&W? If color, from transparency, or negative? Reason for asking is because the tonal range of some films is long, and others constricted, and it's now becoming difficult to print in a traditional wet process due to the scarcity of some printing papers. I'm thinking color print papers, which used to come in numerous grades, but which are no longer made nor readily available.

I am rather accomplished at RA4, Ilfochromes and contrast masking, but switched from a wet darkroom to a hybrid one starting in 2004. At the time I was working exclusively in 35mm, and largely from a 25 year portfolio of images on Kodachrome and Fujichrome, and so I chose a different scanner (Minolta DiMage Scan Elite 5400). From 35mm, it's no contest that scanning and printing produced better prints than a wet process, with vastly greater local control than was possible through dodging and burning or masking.

From 645, it's a toss-up. I've held off on buying a Nikon 9000 because they're only marginally better than my 35mm scanner from 645 using excellent technique. The margin being that the 4000 dpi might present a bottleneck to resolution on the sharpest and most contrasty films I'm using which are capable of resolving in excess of my Pentax lenses. My gut and my eyes tell me that the one P645 lens I've got (the SMC-A 35mm f/3.5) is returning considerably better resolution than than the maximum 63 lpmm that the Nikon is capable of scraping off a neg or slide, if focused and held flat). So it's becomes question of lens resolution v. the scanner resolution. Ultimate resolution being the sole consideration, if you're intent on reasonably priced desktop scanner solution (Coolscan 9000 being the defacto standard here), 645 probably isn't your best bet. 6x7 or 6x9 will be a better fit for the resolution limits of the Coolscan.

The option of buying one scanner to rule them all i.e. a 16-bit drumscanner that can scrape everything off my 35mm transparencies too (which means greater than 5400 dpi in the case of my macro images and short prime lens in 35mm) now that they're within striking distance of what I'd have to spend for both the Nikon and a 4x5 flatbed, is another possibility.

If you're going to be printing no larger than 20x24, one could make very impressive darkroom prints using a neg film like Ektar that would be difficult to improve upon by a hybrid process using a desktop scanner such as the Coolscan. This would require scrupulous technique to eliminate all dust (scratches can also be so problematic as to retire a negative). It means a top-notch enlarger lens. A prime reasons for doing traditional printing still could be that provided one is set up to do it, the media cost are dramatically less expensive than inkjet printing costs.

The other is that there can be an aesthetic to the actual process in Ilfochrome or traditional "straight" B&W photography which some place a higher value on than digital hybrid work.

If you're wanting to print much larger than about 20x24, keep in mind that a good scan can take a fair amount of interpolation and uprezzing, so much easier to deal with than straight enlargements. Too, particular images are more or less easily dealt with in one form or the other. For instance, you'll never have to worry about reciprocity failure or calculate it's effect on printing out papers with digital. This is a serious problem in the darkroom with going large from small negs (and especially transparencies).
05-06-2010, 12:51 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
...cold-tone print on Kodak's Ellite Fine Art paper.

Wonderful stuff, while we had it. If I had the $$ it would be cool to go on a quest to find the best combination of printer/ink/paper to try and match the best silver-based papers.


Steve

(Thinking that I might try the Adox MCC 110 paper when start doing 120 enlargements again...cold white, mult-contrast, gloss surface...what's not to like?)

05-06-2010, 03:33 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
It is picture dependent but one thing the digital conversion will do is give you finer control over the end results I've found.

And by that I mean getting all that's on the negative to the analog print can be a challenge sometimes. In the case of BW, for instance, negatives with extreme range of light can mean losing shadow detail in one area to bring in the highlights in another. Burning and dodging under the enlarger for simple and limited areas is easy to do. But for fine control and with numerous areas to deal with it becomes difficult and no doubt many attempts. Then there is the problem of reproducing it again at a later date. If you don't remember exactly what you did, you'll have to start over.

Of course you can do all that in the graphics editor really easy, more precisely and reproduce the same print again at a future date. And if you've ever wanted to remove an ugly power line in your otherwise great shot, a graphics editor really does the job.

I have a video of the life of Ansel Adams. In one scene he has the paper on the wall with the enlarger projecting onto it. He'd use his hands dancing all around to the image to control the light to areas of the print. I guess in a situation like that each print would be unique piece of hand crafted art.

I haven't see all the good ink paper out there but I've said before that I sure do miss a cold-tone print on Kodak's Ellite Fine Art paper.
Good points. We all forget all the stuff we used to do in the analog darkroom to get the tones we wanted. I was digging through some old darkroom equipment in the garage last month and found a box of ortho film I used for contrast masks. The magic wand in Photoshop is much easier.
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